Hackney author speaks out against stop and search

Robyn Travis Prisoner To The Streets

Robyn Travis' boot, full of copies of his books, when police conducted the search - Credit: Robyn Travis

A successful Hackney author is speaking out against stop and search after he was left in limbo awaiting trial for eight months on charges that were eventually dropped. 

Robyn Travis believes on April 15 last year, when police did a U-turn to pull him over, it was motivated by racial profiling.

He had just overtaken another vehicle on the road - "when it was safe to do so," he says, although the Met Police dispute this - and caught the eye of a police officer driving in the opposite direction.

Seeing them execute the manoeuvre, the author parked and waited for officers to arrive.

Robyn recounted his version of events: "He [the police officer] wasn't hostile to start. But my logical answers got his back up, after I said that I overtook the car safely and he didn’t pull me over, I parked up myself.

"He kept repeating that I overtook, to which I agreed. I realised we were going around in circles so I said: 'Is there anything else you want to say because we are in the middle of the Covid pandemic? I've not committed an offence and I've pulled up without being told to pull over which shows I have nothing to hide.'"

The exchange became heated when Robyn tried to leave, with one officer grabbing Robyn's arm and pulling a taser.

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Robyn continued: "[They] accused me of having firearms in the boot and said I was obstructing a drugs search. They lied to my face. How does one go from dangerous driving to obstructing a drug search and firearms?"

During the search, the officers did not find anything illegal - only hundreds of copies of Robyn's books.

“It just shows – don't judge a book by its cover," Robyn said. 

He was arrested and later charged with driving without due care and attention.

However, after about eight months but before the case got to court, the charges were dropped. 

A letter sent to Robyn and seen by this newspaper explains: "The reason for my decision is that there is not enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction/a prosecution is not needed in the public interest."

The Met's CE Professional Standards Unit has reviewed the incident and found no misconduct on behalf of the officers.

The author has published memoir Prisoner To The Streets, novel Mama Can’t Raise No Man and most recently, Freedom from the Streets. He has also been featured on prison radio talking about his work and spoken at literary festivals such as Cheltenham; Harrogate; World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD); Bare Lit; and Stoke Newington.

His books chart his experience living through London's postcode wars and tackle social issues which are ongoing today. 

Robyn Travis with his new book Freedom from the Streets. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-Harris

Robyn Travis with his new book Freedom from the Streets. Picture: Shanei Stephenson-Harris - Credit: Shanei Stephenson-Harris

Robyn said he wants to "further spotlight" the wider issues around stop and search: "I don’t want to be getting arrested at this age, but I'm a Black man in Hackney so I expect it. I didn't do this piece because I'm shocked."

He continued: "The worse part about all of this is the following day, my book was aired on national prison radio. My point is, with all the positive work I do to encourage young people away from violence and crime, I'm still being harassed like I am a criminal."

In 2011, Robyn says he was stopped some 22 times while he was studying at Middlesex University London.

A Met Police spokesperson said officers "witnessed a driver commit a traffic offence...by taking the offside at speed".

They continued: "While officers were speaking with the driver, he got back into his vehicle and attempted to drive off before details had been taken. He was then detained for the purposes of a search.

"He became aggressive and one of the officers drew his taser, although this was not used."

The Met Police have not received a complaint about the matter and encouraged Robyn to come forward so they can "address any concerns".

READ MORE: ‘I don’t have a knife on me. I’m free - that’s why it’s called Freedom From The Streets’: Hackney writer Robyn Travis on making peace and understanding violence

READ MORE: Thousands more people stopped and searched in Hackney but fewer perpetrators caught

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